There are many reasons why cats are the second most popular pet. Cats provide company, exercise, laughter, affection, and provide a sense of purpose. Interestingly, cats may also increase your longevity.
Scientific research shows that cat ownership can improve your health. Cats can reduce stress, heal, lessen the chances of allergies in kids, lower blood pressure, and widen your social network. All these health benefits contribute to a longer lifespan than those who don’t own a cat.
Many academics have looked into whether owners thought their pets improved their lives. The outcome was that cats have tangible health benefits and improve the quality of life for humans.
Is Owning A Cat Good For Your Health?
If you own a cat, you may feel like it’s good for your health, and you may be right.
Here are some of the health benefits that cat owners enjoy:
Allergy Prevention in Children
Cats’ hair is one of the most common allergens in adults, but exposure to cat hair may lead children to develop immunity. That’s not just to cat hair, but other allergens as well.
According to the American Medical Association, researchers noted that children exposed to cats are less likely to develop allergies. They don’t just mean allergies to cat hair or even pets in general, but many common sources of allergies.
Researchers noted that when children under a year old are exposed to pets, they seem to fare better against other types of common allergies, including:
- Dust mites
Less Expensive Than Dogs
It’s claimed that health is wealth, but it can be the other way around, too.
Having good finances can lower your stress and help you pay medical bills. Thankfully, cats are more affordable pets than dogs.
According to the ASPCA, owning a cat is $300-$800 per year cheaper than owning a dog.
It’s a commonly held belief that cats purr when happy. However, some researchers claim that purring may be more complicated than that.
Experts believe that cats may purr as a way to communicate with each other. After all, cats only meow when there are humans around, but they still purr with each other.
However, another common hypothesis is that purring is intended for physical healing, which is a perspective supported by the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
According to the study, frequencies of 20-150 Hertz have been shown to promote pain relief, reduce inflammation, and aid breathlessness.
Incidentally, all cat species purr in a frequency between 20-150 Hertz.
Many of us believe you shouldn’t let your cat into your bed, as it can disturb your sleep and even pass on dirt and bacteria. However, Mayo Clinic Proceedings noted that pet owners thought their pets didn’t disturb their sleep, finding them highly beneficial.
This is supported by a more recent study that followed dog owners. In this study, researchers noted that as long as the dog didn’t sleep on its owners’ bed, its presence in the room led to better sleep. However, vets noted that this study only looked at dog owners, specifically with one dog.
Having several pets may increase the chances of disturbed sleep. Likewise, larger breeds may also increase the chances of waking up their owners at night.
Cats are smaller than dogs, but they also tend to be more active than dogs at night. Dogs tend to copy their owners and go to sleep, while cats, especially younger ones, are likely to play in the room.
Additionally, of the 150 researcher participants, 15 believed that their pets disturbed their sleep. Nonetheless, it may seem like the quality of sleep depends largely on your cat.
If having your cat with you in the bedroom is comforting, and your cat won’t disturb your sleep, by all means, sleep with your cat in the same room. After all, we all need to get the best sleep possible.
Numerous studies have linked the lack of sleep to various health issues, such as:
- Weaker immune system
- Altered hormone levels
- Cardiovascular diseases
Lower Blood Pressure
According to Hypertension, researchers compared the effectiveness of blood pressure medication to owning a pet to lower blood pressure.
Participants in the study were stockbrokers in New York City who had highly stressful jobs. Half of the participants were randomly selected to own a dog or cat.
During the study, both pet owners and non-pet owners received drug therapy. They were then tested with mental stressors, like doing arithmetic or making a speech.
The researchers found that drug therapy did lower the blood pressure of those who didn’t own a pet. However, during the stress tests, their blood pressure, heart rate, and renin levels would increase to levels akin to before they were treated.
Pet owners fared much better. Their heart rate, blood pressure, and renin levels only increased slightly, much less than their non-pet owner counterparts.
Researchers concluded that while drug therapy helps lower blood pressure, owning a pet can lower the effects of mental stress on blood pressure.
Researchers remain unsure about how this happens. However, the science seems convincing. In fact, non-pet participants went out to get pets once they heard the study’s findings.
Reduced Heart Attack Risk
According to the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, researchers noted that owning a cat may reduce the risk of a heart attack by nearly one-third.
Heart attacks are a leading cause of death. In fact, the World Health Organization notes that 32% of deaths worldwide are due to cardiovascular diseases, 85% of which are heart attacks and strokes.
The study was done over the course of 10 years, with more than 4,000 participants. About half of the participants owned or previously owned a cat, while the other half didn’t.
The researchers then looked at the cause of death for each participant and noted that non-cat owners died from heart attacks 30% more often than those who did own a cat.
However, not everyone is convinced. Some veterinarians believe that the link may be a correlation, and the researchers noted that this could be possible. For example, maybe cat owners led less stressful lives or had personalities that led them to be less stressed.
Even if owning a cat isn’t the main reason why participants had better heart health, there’s a high chance that cat ownership does keep your heart healthy. Also, other studies supported the study’s argument that pet ownership can lead to healthier hearts.
Widened Social Circle
According to PLOS ONE, researchers looked into how pets can help widen our social circle.
Researchers were randomly selected in 4 cities, 1 in Australia and 3 in the U.S. They were interviewed about if they owned pets, how many, and if they formed social bonds because of their pet.
Pet owners knew people in their neighborhoods at a much higher rate than those who didn’t own pets. The relationships they formed were pretty good, too.
About 40% of pet owners noted that they received at least one type of social support, like emotional or informational support, from the people they met because of their pets. Researchers noted that the effect was much greater for dog owners, but cat owners also benefited.
This research is great news, not just for creating new social bonds, but because it can lead to longer lives. Loneliness is a serious issue, especially among the elderly.
Do Cats Or Dog Owners Live Longer?
The jury is still out on whether cat or dog owners live longer.
More studies are being done on dogs than cats, and most of the studies that examined the link between cat ownership and health looked at both cat and dog ownership rather than cat ownership alone.
However, there’s reason to believe that owning any pet can greatly benefit your health, whether it’s a dog, cat, or exotic pet.
Pets provide companionship. In fact, getting a friend is the most common reason why people get pets. It seems that pets don’t just make good friends; they can even help you get more human friends.
Cat Owners Report Being Happier
In a market survey of cat owners, 40% of women and 25% of men agreed that their cats benefitted their health. Likewise, 52% of women and 28% of men agreed that their cats benefitted their mental health.
According to Anthrozoos, cat owners reported being happier, more confident, and less nervous than non-cat owners. Even if those are simply personal opinions, various studies support these sentiments.
We all know that our cats make us feel better, and we don’t need research to prove that.